The Nevada Gaming Control Board in the United States has confirmed to GGRAsia that it is investigating reports of three deals that allegedly improperly benefited Japanese billionaire Kazuo Okada personally rather than his businesses. The entrepreneur is being investigated by his own company – Universal Entertainment Corp – for claimed “illegal activities” and “serious violation of governance”.
“The Nevada Gaming Control Board can confirm that it has reviewed the two notices [from Universal Entertainment] and that it is investigating the allegations contained therein,” Diane Presson, supervisor at the regulator’s investigations division, said in an email to GGRAsia.
Ms Presson said the Nevada Gaming Control Board would not be making any further comments at this moment, “as this is an open investigatory matter”.
The Board did not confirm the reasons for Nevada claiming jurisdictional rights over matters connected to Mr Okada.
Universal Entertainment has linked its founder to three alleged cases of “illegal activities”.
The Japanese gaming conglomerate on June 8 accused Mr Okada (pictured) and a fellow director of “a serious violation of governance” in relation to a March 2015 transfer of an HKD135-million (US$17.3-million) loan from an entity called Tiger Resort Asia Ltd, a Hong Kong subsidiary of the group. The company said HKD130 million of the loan sum in question was found to be for the purpose of “personal benefit for chairman Okada”. The transfer was said to involve Hong Kong-based Okada Holdings Ltd – a company said to be entirely owned by Mr Okada and his relatives.
Universal Entertainment said at the time it was suspending the leadership powers held by Mr Okada and announced the creation of a special investigation committee – described as three external experts cooperating with in-house auditors – to probe the case.
Reuters news agency reported on Tuesday that Mr Okada had also resigned as chairman of Okada Holdings. Mr Okada however still owns a 46.4 percent stake in that company and retains a grip over other parts of his business, including a 100-percent stake in Aruze Gaming America Inc, which manufacturers slot machines and is licensed in several U.S. states.
Separate from the case initially announced, Universal Entertainment said on June 19 that the special investigation committee had the suspicion that Mr Okada had been involved in another “two cases of illegal activities” related to payments and the withdrawal of funds “without necessary internal procedures of the company”.
Universal Entertainment stated earlier this month a slate of directors for its board that omitted Mr Okada. Shareholders will vote on that list of directors at the firm’s annual meeting on Thursday.
Universal Entertainment is also the parent company of Tiger Resort, Leisure and Entertainment Inc, the promoter of the Okada Manila casino resort in the Philippines. Tiger Resort announced on June 16 it had removed Mr Okada as company chairman.
On Tuesday, Universal Entertainment said in a press release that the special investigation committee would require more time to prepare an interim report of its findings, meaning it will miss a June 30 deadline the firm had set previously.
The special investigation committee was quoted as saying: “In consideration of the fact that now the number of cases to be investigated increased to three and that as all of these activities took place overseas and thus require more time to investigate, it would be difficult to submit an interim investigative report to the company [Universal Entertainment] on or around June 30, 2017.”
The firm’s release added that the three cases are still being probed by the special committee. Universal Entertainment stated however that it would not be necessary to correct the company’s financial statements for the reporting years in question as it already has the prospect of recovering the disputed funds.
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”We expect Goa to quickly become a US$1 billion market as it transitions to land-based casinos (from US$150 million today), which is still just a fraction of India’s total GGR potential of US$10 billion to US$17 billion”
Analyst at Union Gaming Securities Asia